My tracker is reporting inaccurate GPS positions - what can I do?

In this article, we explain all reasons why you might see inaccurate location data from time to time in the Tractive GPS app, what it means, and the steps you can take to ensure you'll be able to track your pet with success.

 

What is inaccurate location data?

Inaccurate GPS data refers to any instance in which the reported position of the tracker in the app does not match the exact location of your pet. While this might seem worrying at first, it is nothing to fear and is a standard part of GPS technology; one that should not prevent you from tracking your four-legged friend when you need to.

 

How accurate is the Tractive GPS & GPS technology?

The Tractive GPS relies mainly on GPS technology to calculate the location of your furry friend.  Therefore, the tracker is approximately as accurate as current GPS technology. No GPS system is 100% precise - GPS signals provide an average accuracy of about 7.8 meters in perfect conditions.

 

What can do if I have concerns about the accuracy of my Tractive GPS tracker?

Taking into consideration the standard accuracy of GPS technology, it is important to also be aware of the other factors which could decrease the accuracy of your Tractive GPS device. Some cases of GPS inaccuracy are considered normal under certain circumstances due to the nature of the technology. However, GPS inaccuracy may also indicate a hardware malfunction, in which case, the tracker must be replaced.

Follow the steps below to test the accuracy and overall performance of your GPS tracker:

  1. Fully charge the tracker.
  2. Reset the tracker by holding down the power button for 30 seconds until you hear a short beeping sound.
  3. Go outside with the tracker and make sure it is turned on (press the button briefly; if it you see a light and hear a beeping sound, it is turned on).
  4. Activate LIVE Tracking mode and take a short, 5-10 minute walk with the tracker on your person.
  5. As you walk, check the LIVE Tracking trace in the app compared to the actual path you follow. Is it accurately displaying your position? If so, this is a good indicator that your device is in good working order. You can also check the Location History after the walk is completed.

Your test walk should indicate to you how accurate your Tractive GPS tracker is at that time. Remember, a small deviation between your actual location and the reported position of the tracker is normal according to the limitations of GPS technology.

Despite these limitations, you should still have confidence that you will be able to locate your pet accurately when needed.

If for any reason you suspect that your tracker might not be working correctly (especially when tested outdoors in LIVE mode), contact Tractive Customer Service for technical support. If possible, please provide the date and time of the LIVE Tracking walk completed (following the steps above) in your first message in order to receive fast support.

Read on to learn more about the factors which impact GPS accuracy and the behavior of the Tractive GPS.

 

What other factors impact the accuracy of the reported positions?

The following additional factors are important to keep in mind, when understanding the accuracy of the Tractive GPS.

 

Number of GPS Satellites within Reach

To calculate it's position, the GPS tracker receives signals from GPS satellites with a built-in GPS antenna and infers the distance to the satellites from the signal's travel time. The device can calculate its position when the distances to at least 4 satellites are established. 

GPS accuracy increases when more GPS satellites are within reach of the tracker, and decreases when less satellites are available.

Your Tractive GPS tracker will automatically connect to multiple GPS satellites; these are available all around the world and at all times. Their location changes all the time, meaning that no matter where on Earth you are, GPS signals will be available.

 

GPS Interference Caused by Environmental Factors

GPS interference occurs when something in the environment obstructs the GPS signal from the device. This occurs most often when the device is indoors, in a car, in a heavily forested area, or in an area with a high concentration of tall buildings. Weather and windows can also reflect GPS signals.

GPS signals can also be influenced by more subtle environmental factors. The following picture shows different sources of interference that can compromise GPS accuracy or even block the signal entirely:

gps_interference.jpg

I = Interference from particles in the ionosphere, 70 - 400 km above sea level. Due to the high concentration of ions and free electrons in this area, GPS signals can be significantly altered.

II = Interference from water vapor in the troposphere. Especially on cloudy or rainy days, GPS accuracy can be reduced.

III = Interference due to reflections on buildings or hilly terrain. High-rise buildings or hills and mountains in the vicinity can block or alter GPS signals. Large water or glass surfaces can cause reflections that might throw off the tracker.

The interplay of these various types of interference can result in a discrepancy between the location shown in the GPS app and the actual location of the tracker. This is only temporary, as your dog or cat moves and the tracker continuously recalculates its position in real-time.

 

What happens if my tracker cannot get a GPS signal (for example, indoors)?

In cases of GPS interference, GPS signals are blocked by a natural or man-made structure and therefore the tracker may not be able to use GPS to accurately calculate its position. That is why we have built in several back-up localization technologies into the Tractive GPS tracker, which will take over in case no GPS signal is available. As soon as GPS is available again, you will see accurate GPS positions reported in the app.

For example; indoors, when the GPS signal is blocked by the roof of your home, the tracker will revert to cellular triangulation, a method of localization which is less accurate than GPS. For this reason, you might be sitting on the couch with your dog or cat, and the tracker will report their position as being 50 meters away, outdoors. 

The tracker will report its position every 2-3 seconds in LIVE Tracking mode, therefore we recommend to avoid testing or using LIVE Tracking when your pet is safely indoors to avoid receiving many inaccurate position reports. We are working around the clock to filter out any such inaccurate location data. 

Wherever possible, another technology will be used instead (such as Bluetooth or WIFI) to provide you with an accurate position report while GPS is temporarily unavailable. 

 

Tips and tricks to avoid GPS inaccuracies:

  • Turn the device off, or avoid using LIVE Tracking, when your dog or cat is safely indoors.
  • Make sure that the GPS tracker is correctly positioned on your pet's collar. It is best when located on the back so that it's not covered by body parts.
  • Use the enhance GPS location accuracy feature (available on select devices only).
  • Enable Bluetooth on your smartphone or tablet.
  • Activate LIVE Tracking to increase the frequency of updates in the app.

 

Summary

Despite the limitations of GPS technology including variances in accuracy caused by GPS interference, the Tractive GPS is still working hard to locate itself at every moment it is turned on. It will recalculate its location every 2-3 seconds in LIVE mode to bring you the most accurate coordinates possible of your pet's location. GPS inaccuracy is normal in some circumstances, and can be remedied by the tips above. If you notice you are having continued concerns about the accuracy of your Tractive GPS tracker, complete the test walk above and then contact Tractive for additional support. Our Customer Happiness team is always happy to assist you.

Read more about Tractive GPS accuracy >

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